Generator: Random Cartographies - relational geographies of the fold

This generator is both a conceptual and technical device. I start with one premise: as a cultural geographer by training and profession, I understand place to be as much an idea as a location: geography is both material and imaginative. Thus, place is not just a static site and container, but generative of meanings and concepts. I therefore want to find a place in order to generate an idea for conceptual development and experimentation.

Approaching this premise from the perspective of randomness, I want to develop a generator that offers up serendipitous alignments between locations – locative alignments that result from the folding of space. Following Doreen Massey (2005, For Space), space is multiple, it is the sphere of simultaneous co-existence, and all places are connected and folded into each other within a relational field of geography. It seems fitting to translate this concept of space into a random generator through the notion to then the fold – le pli – which is a an etymologically related to multiplicity. Folding space is a compelling way to explore the relations that make place.

Moving from the conceptual basis of the generator to its technical realisation, I chose to use a map as my starting point – and A4 paper map that could be folded, bringing space upon itself. I selected a simple (but comprehensive) outline map of Sydney’s suburbs from the Dictionary of Sydney, and printed multiple copies on A4 paper. The map has suburb names and boundaries, but no cartographic markers. Moving away from positivist ways of defining location, I want to explore a way to randomly locate place on a map.

suburb map.JPG

To randomly locate a place, I decided to fold the map in an arbitrary way, and then drive a map pin through the folded paper, piercing the map in random places and revealing which spaces folded onto each other. The median of those ‘pin-pointed’ places infers the locus of the folded space.

But, first, how to fold in an arbitrary manner? The usual neat folds, of any kind, would result in straight lines. I even considered origami folds, but these are also straight lines. I wanted something haphazard that might yield unexpected – and indeed, quite random – results. So I decided to scrunch the paper map and then flatten it under heavy books. After that, the map pin was driven through the centre of the flattened ball of scrunched paper. Unfolding the map then revealed a random selection of ‘pinpoints’ – places (suburbs) that had unexpectedly folded onto each other.

AGM scrunch and pin.JPG

AGM map pins.JPG

To find the median of the folded space – the co-existent suburbs, I decided to use a qualitative form of cardinality: the basic geographical axes of north-south and east-west. I identified the median pin-pointed place on the east-west axis of the map, and the median pin-pointed place on the north-south axis. If this was the same place on both axes, then that was the serendipitous median of folded space. If not – which was usually the case – I drew a displacement (straight line) transect between the east-west and north-south median points, and then found the median point of that transect. This location, this place, this point within a particular suburb, will be the site of investigation and experimentation.

AGM Redfern 2.JPG

To more precisely locate the field of experimentation, I decided to compare the folded-space map with Google Earth/Google Maps in order to identify the geo-location of the site – i.e. latitude and longitude, degrees north-south and east-west. (See Results page for images and geo-location.)

To further enhance the randomness of the final folded location, I undertook the mapping experiment ten times, then re-scrunched the maps, and selected a map for final use for the experimentation - again, see Results page for images. Place is an idea, a texture, a thread, and a location. What are the textures, evocations and meanings of this place?